If You Worked as a Reserve Police Officer or a Call Firefighter – You Need To Read This.

All MASSC.O.P. members who have worked as a reserve officer or a call firefighter need to read this article. In Massachusetts, retirement system members who worked as call firefighters or reserve police officers can be credited with a maximum of five years of service for the time they held those positions. This has not changed. However, now the State is requiring members to buy back those five years of service in order to use them to calculate their pension. This is a significant change because, during the last forty years, this type of service was automatically credited to members without any contributions.

This change began last summer when the Contributory Retirement Appeal Board (“CRAB”) issued a decision in Brenton MacAloney v. Worcester Regional System and Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission CR No. 11-19 (2013). That case involved a retired Fire Chief who was required to make payments for his service as a call fire fighter in order for that service to be credited in the calculation of his pension. Since CRAB’s decision, the State (through its agency PERAC) has issued guidance to the Retirement Boards advising them that officers now need to provide make up payments for any reserve/call service for it to be considered creditable in calculating their pension.

This guidance applies only to officers retiring after June 21, 2013. For officers who actually worked as reserves or call firefighters in regular service each of the relevant five years, they will have to remit make up payments based upon the income they earned with interest accruing after June 21, 2013. Though the new change might not stand, officers should err on the side of making any such buy back payments if their board gives them that opportunity. Better to over pay and be reimbursed then to underpay and lose years of creditable service.

Things get more complicated for officers who did not work in regular service when they were on a list or possibly for officers who only worked details when on a reserve list. Previously, this time on the list was credited regardless of whether a reserve officer had worked. However, PERAC has now issued guidance to the boards stating that if an officer did not perform any reserve service in one or more of the relevant five years that the member should be required to remit contributions as if they earned three thousand dollars of regular compensation for each year.

PERAC chose three thousand dollars because it is the amount used to calculate disability pensions for reserve officers and call firefighters when there is no other comparable amount available. As the two relevant sections of the statute are not directly linked, this guidance could be flawed. Indeed, some boards are not following that portion of PERAC’s guidance and it is currently the subject of litigation.

This article is a starting point. Everyone who worked as a reserve officer or a call fire fighter needs to be aware of this change and what position their board is taking with respect to it. This is necessary to be able to properly plan for retirement. If a member encounters a problem, he or she should notify his or her local MASS C.O.P. leadership.

4 thoughts on “If You Worked as a Reserve Police Officer or a Call Firefighter – You Need To Read This.”

  1. What about call ff time in a department other than the department you currently work for ?

    example call ff 1993-1999 in town xxx
    fulltime 1999-present in city yyy

    Can I still purchase that time ? I was under the impression I could not.

    Thanks EC

    1. Eric,
      I don’t believe you can purchase that time. M.G.L. c. 32, section 4 states, in pertinent part, that “…that the board shall credit as full-time service not to exceed a maximum of five years that period of time during which a reserve or permanent-intermittent police officer or a reserve, permanent-intermittent or call fire fighter was on his respective list and was eligible for assignment to duty subsequent to his appointment; and provided, further, that such service as a permanent-intermittent or call fire fighter shall be credited only if such permanent-intermittent or call fire fighter was later appointed as a permanent member of the fire department. “ It is that emphasized last portion that prevents you from purchasing that service back.

  2. I fall into the category of having had 3 years as a reserve officer prior to getting hired full time. During those 4 years I was mainly working details (I may have volunteered at events over that period).

    When I bought back my part time service years ago I was told that I could not buy back my time from that agency because it was only detail hours that I logged. My part time service was credited only for time that I worked at another agency as a part time dispatcher and working at the local high school as a part time custodian just after I got out of school.

    Does this mean I should of been allowed to buy back my reserve time where I only worked detail hours.

    1. Good question. First you must determine whether you received any regular compensation in any of those years (ie you worked regular shifts). Based on PERAC’s guidance you’d have to make regular contributions based on that time. As to the detail time, PERAC does not appear to have contemplated this. Hopefully, the worse case scenario is that you’d have to treat this as if you made the 3000 dollar amount PERAC uses in the instances an Officer was on a list but did not work.

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